It’s now the unmissable event for the next 8 weeks, every Sunday evening (or Monday for those who don’t stay up late), HBO releases a new episode of its series The Last of Us, co-written and co-produced by Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) and Neil Druckmann, the video game’s co-creator. After a first episode last week which allowed to lay the foundations of the lore and to expand the universe a little more, here we are facing the second episode. The latter was eagerly awaited, because it introduces Clickers / Clickers for the first time, but also allows Neil Druckmann to be behind the camera, an exercise that suits him rather well. Analysis and comparison with the video game.
Where to start with this episode 2? Know first of all that its duration was 53 min, a shorter episode than the first which was 1h21, but which especially allowed to discover the first Clickers. We were expecting them, they were there, we were not disappointed. And who else than Neil Druckmann could better transcribe the encounter between Joel, Ellie and Tess with these almost demonic creatures? But we’ll come back to that in a moment. For now, I would like to start this analysis of episode 2 with its intro, which allows us to know a little more about the contagion of cordyceps in the world. Episode 2 thus opens in Jakarta in Indonesia on September 24, 2003, and a small parenthesis, I understand better why the country had the right to a dressing of the series a few days before the broadcast of the first episode. It was therefore there, in Jakarta, that the first infected appeared, in a field of grain and flour, to the west of the city. This intro is very important, because not only does it allow us to lay the foundations for the global infection, with traces of patient zero, or at least one of the first infected, who we discover lying in a cold room, naked ready to be dissected, but also because it helps to understand the differences with the video game. In the original work, it is by breathing in spores that you become contaminated by cordyceps, in the TV series, it is through flour.
FROM THE SPORES TO THE FLOUR
Craig Mazin, the showrunner, had already explained this change in contamination in an interview a few weeks ago, and he had mentioned the fact that it allowed actors to avoid wearing the mask all the time. We didn’t really agree with his justification, because in the video game the characters don’t systematically wear the mask, not outdoors, only indoors, and I think that excuse, and be careful, it’s me who speculates above, comes from the fact that Pedro Pascal had complained about having to wear the mask constantly in The Mandalorian. He had denied it afterwards, but as you know, rumors never arise from nothing at all… Still, this 10-minute opening sequence allows us to set the context of this contamination, before the outbreak, by 2023, and also allows us to adjust to what happened in our reality, with the famous COVID-19 which supposedly appeared in an animal market in Wu-Han. It allows us to echo our world. And what we really liked in this sequence is the performance of Christine Hakim Bermain, an Indonesian actress who not only plays this well-informed scientist but panicked in the face of this sudden contagion, but also gives the beginning of a tragic response. on the cordycepts. “Star bombing”, bombing the city, there is only this viable solution. We jump right into the series.
What we really liked in this 2nd episode is this intimate and grandiose staging. Intimate in certain shots like the one where we see Ellie in a fetal position, seen from above, in the middle of the vegetation, pierced by a halo of light. Great because it is also the episode that allows us to discover the ravaged world of The Last of Us in broad daylight, to appreciate the quality of the sets, but also of the digital effects. The museum and the capitol are just magnificent and super well rendered, it’s quite satisfying to look at them. Nothing is left to chance, it’s stuffed with easter eggs in every way, there are video game references everywhere. There is this flooded passage where the characters have to cross, or even this moment when Joel makes the short ladder so that Tess finds a way to clear a door. We are really in the video game, with always talkative passages which allow 1/ to know more about the lore and tragic events for each character, and 2/ that Joel and Ellie can start to weave bonds of friendship and of confidence. Another important element of this 2nd episode are the conditions of the infected and what this series changes compared to the video game. We learn for example that some can live a few months and die, while others have been there for twenty years. And then, we arrive at this scene where they cross the red of hundreds of infected and this is where Tess will make important revelations. That the infected are infected with each other, that the fungi, the cordyceps which also grows in the ground and makes it possible to create a communication link between the infected located in different places. Tess also recalls that Ellie may be immune to bites, but she can die from an attack by infected people who can tear off her jugular for example.
DOES IT CLICK WELL?
By the way, before entering the museum, we see Joel examining a completely dried up cordyceps root, which leads him to think that all the infected inside may be dead. Fatal error and this is where we will discover the first Clickers, these blind advanced infected, which react to sound and only to sound. A successful scene, full of tension and which allows you to review all the gameplay mechanics of the video game. Between the characters who evolve with the flashlights, the fact of moving forward crouched so as not to make noise, bypassing elements of the decor, or even those moments when they divert the attention of the Clickers by throwing an object further for their escape. Everything is here. I also really like these corpses that let this viscous pool of blood flow, like in the video game. Neil Druckmann also plays with his camera, which he does not hesitate to move to bring the Clickers out of the field so that we cannot know where they are. No, it’s really successful and as I said above, only Neil Druckmann could perfectly transcribe this incredible scene.
Otherwise, in our first video, the one where we summarize the 9 episodes, we mentioned the differences of destiny for certain characters, a rewriting almost necessary to surprise players who know the video game by heart, to offer more depth and of humanity to these protagonists, but also bring a more dramatic aspect to the series, because it is by these codes that it works. This is the case of Tess whose death was completely rewritten by Neil Druckmann. A death that is tragic, repugnant and poetic at the same time and which makes it possible to make the link with this connection that the Infected have between them via this communicative cordyceps. And then, it must be said that in the game, Tess had not been able to benefit from a death at the height of the character. We heard gunshots and then a soldier say that he had neutralized her and we could see her body from the first floor of the capitol. It was quite expeditious. There, that kiss where the infected pass by her without her being worried, because as she was bitten and infected, they consider her one of their own. It obviously recalls this scene in World War Z where the sick young boy does not get killed by the zombies. No, it is well found.
You understood, after a very successful first episode, which laid the foundations of the lore of The Last of Us and allowed to see the quality of writing of the series, here we are with a 2nd episode strong in memorable scenes and emotions . The intro to Jakarta which freezes the blood, the post-apo world superbly well transcribed, as in the video game, the fight scene with the 2 clickers, the death of Tess revisited, the actors still incredible and who understood the essence of their respective characters, we are virtually flawless. The sequel will continue to build crescendo, follow what the video game had done, but also surprise us more. And the next episode, episode 3, will be talked about a lot, for its daring approach and its freedoms taken with video games. It is at the same time the most unexpected, the most touching and one of the most memorable.
See you next week for a new debrief of the coup.